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Wauwatosa presents new teacher pay plan

Educators would advance through four stages of pay, responsibility

Dec. 11, 2013

Teachers would move through a four-stage classification system in a new compensation plan presented to the School Board this week.

The program, many details of which are yet to be settled, was created by a committee involving teachers and administrators as way to add predictability and provide a career arc to a pay system that many in the district viewed as lacking structure in the wake of 2011's Act 10, which effectively ended collective bargaining for many public employees.

Under the plan, a teacher would move through "classes" labeled A through D, spending several years at each stage, with steadily increasing expectations and compensation.

Salary examples

Financial details are "in flux," said Superintendent Phil Ertl.

Human Resources Director Dan Chanen used an illustration with pay starting at $40,000 for an "initial educator" in Class A, and top out at $85,300 for a Class D educator, a person with an advanced degree, years of experience, a leadership role, and meeting other yet-to-be-defined criteria.

This person might be a teacher of teachers as much as a teacher of students, and may or may not have day-to-day classroom responsibilities, depending on how the role is defined.

Steps on the way

Spending from three to five years in Class A, a teacher would move from a beginner toward a fully licensed status before a promotion to Class B, where most would spend six years as "professional educators" while "continuing to meet performance expectations."

Chanen termed moving from Class A to Class B a "fairly mechanical" transition, though not that for moving from B to C.

A master's degree or equivalent and "evidence of 'consistent and sustained' contribution through assumption of leadership roles in the district/building" would be required to move into Class C, according to the district's description of the plan.

There would be no limit placed on the number of Class C teachers, and it would be a standard that "everybody should be able to get to," Chanen said.

The role of principals

Principals would have a primary role in promotion, and would be held responsible for lagging movement up the scale, Ertl said.

Teachers denied promotion to Class C would be able to appeal the decision to a compensation committee, Chanen said.

"A principal will need to sit some people down and say, 'You are not currently a C. To get there, there's things that I need from you within your teaching, your role within our building, to move us forward,'" Chanen said.

What is leadership?

It was the definition and expectation of "leadership roles," along with the duties of a Class D educator, that drew the most questions from the many teachers, and some board members, present at Monday night's meeting.

The movement from Class B to Class C appears mainly based on leadership, said School Board member Carmela Rios.

"I'm concerned about how leadership is defined, because some of the best teachers I've worked with sometimes didn't have your classic definition of leadership, but were putting in the very long hours to do what was best for their students," she said. "It's just a real concern, because depending on how that's defined, it may encourage or discourage teachers to spend their time certain ways."

What teachers do can be hard to measure, she said.

Making differences

Board member Phil Kroner picked up the theme.

"There are going to be different types of teachers, and I understand that leadership can be a very broad definition, but I, too, was thinking of teachers — and many people know them — who make incredible differences in kids' lives but may not be the people who are comfortable doing the leadership activities as we normally see them," he said.

Both Rios' and Kroner's comments were met by applause from the teachers present.

Chanen said the committee "strayed away from defining leadership roles in terms of committee assignments, or things like that, that sometimes can be very productive, but sometimes they're not necessarily the type of leadership that's moving student learning forward in every single case."

He said, for example, that providing a role model, or a model classroom, could be a method of demonstrating leadership.

Toward pay equity

Chanen noted that the new compensation plan would be a step toward providing more equity.

Currently, "you could look at two people who are the same from the perspective of degrees, certification, years of service, years of experience in the profession, and their salaries could be vastly different — thousands of dollars different."

In making initial placements within the new pay classes, he said, "we're looking to correct some of those things; bring people in line with their peers."

He said no one would take a pay cut in their initial placement, but that there would be some who were "off-schedule." These might be teachers who are put in Class C, for example, but already making more than the top Class C pay. While they would be eligible for raises, they would essentially have to be dealt with under the previous pay system.

Providing motivation

"One of the things that brought me to Wauwatosa West," Nick Koepke, a third-year English teacher at Tosa West, told the board, "was the idea that there was going to be room to grow. But one of the things that was a drawback from here was that when I came here there was no plan set. I knew at other districts where I could be in 10 years, where I could be in 15 years, what I had to do to get to that spot. What this plan does is it kind of motivates an educator to say, if I want to be making X amount of dollars, this is what I personally need to do."

The plan will be presented in listening sessions to teachers at the schools, and return to the board, possibly in January, with more details.

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